November 17, 2009
Case Study

User-Generated Video Contest: 6 Steps to Promote Brand and Generate New Marketing Content

SUMMARY: This year’s marketing mantra has been about doing more with less. See how a marketing team built a content library and generated new leads through a user-generated video contest.

The carefully-designed contest called on consumers to create brand-focused videos and recruit peers to vote on a winner. This resulted in hundreds of submitted videos and more than 17,000 registered voters primed for future outreach. Includes 11 creative samples for inspiration.

Christina DeGuardi, VP, Marketing, Crunch, and her team faced this year’s most common marketing challenge: a smaller budget.

"As budgets are cut, you’re always forced to do things that show tangible results," DeGuardi says.

Despite limited resources, the team did not want to stop brand-building campaigns. They wanted to emphasize the fitness chain’s unique brand while collecting membership sales leads to show a return.

But the team’s budget limitations inhibited content generation. They couldn’t afford to make television commercials, but instead captured free, high-quality content that emphasized the brand and generated leads.


The team ran a user-generated video contest that relied on contestants to create content and then ask peers to vote for their video -- promoting Crunch fitness centers in the process. The best part? The team could use the videos following the contest for marketing.

Here are the six steps DeGuardi’s team took:

Step #1. Design a brand-focused contest

The team designed the contest to show how consumers viewed Crunch. This way, when the team promoted the contest, they also promoted the brand.

The two brand aspects they emphasized:

- No judgments

Crunch’s philosophy was that "there are no judgments" in their gyms.

- Fun and edgy

The gym’s approach combines fitness and entertainment, DeGuardi says. Live DJs, for example, often perform during fitness classes.

They established contest rules that ensured consumers would include these brand attributes in their videos, and create pieces that could be repurposed:

- Videos entered in the contest were between 30 to 180 seconds long. DeGuardi says short videos appealed to both television commercial- and short film-oriented directors.

- Videos also had to express Crunch’s "no judgments" philosophy, and use at least one key phrase from Crunch’s brand statement. Entries were accepted from mid July 2009 through August 2009.

The contest winner received $10,000 and a complimentary one-year gym membership. The three runners up also won one-year memberships.

- The main contest promotion graphic featured an animated, naked man with his private areas blurred alongside the phrase "We Need Shorts." The word "shorts" referred to both gym shorts for the character and short videos for the contest.

Step #2. Build a microsite

The team created a microsite to manage the contest in a controlled environment. They did not use a third-party video hosting service.

"That way we could keep [visitors] in the Crunch online world and direct them to Crunch if they wanted to try us out," DeGuardi says. "We did not want to risk losing them on YouTube."

The microsite performed the following tasks:
o Accepted traffic from online advertising
o Explained contest rules
o Accepted contestant information and videos
o Provided promotion tools to contestants
o Collected votes

Step #3. Multi-channel contest promotion

The team spread word about the contest without overspending. Here are the low-cost ways they promoted it:

- Education partners

The team needed to reach talented people with video expertise. They approached film and advertising schools located near Crunch locations, and asked school reps to tack contest information to school bulletin boards. Several schools were enthusiastic about the opportunity.

Schools they worked with included:
o New York University
o Miami Ad School
o Brooklyn Academy of Music

- Location advertising

The team placed large posters outside their gyms to promote the contest. The ads featured the nude character and emphasized the $10,000 prize (see creative samples below).

- Email

The team sent emails to their member and contestant lists to announce the contest opening, voting period, closing, finalists and winners (see creative samples below).

- Paid ads

The team ran what DeGuardi calls a "very small" search and display advertising effort. They served ads to search engine keywords such as "video contest" and "short film contest." They also purchased advertising on YouTube and several film trailer sites.

All paid online media pointed traffic to the contest microsite.

Step #4. Accept entries and equip contestants for viral voting

The team aimed to simplify the video submission process. Once a contestant finished a video, he or she had to visit the microsite, complete a form and upload the video. The form requested:
o Video title
o Name
o Email
o Mailing address
o Phone number
o Birth date
o Opt-in for email updates

The team also offered a downloadable toolkit that included contest rules and examples of the Crunch logo that contestants were expected to feature in the video.

- Viral promotion tool kits

Once contestants submitted a video, the team mailed each a free backpack, a pair of gym shorts, and cards to promote their videos.

The approximately three-by-five inch cards had empty fields to write in a video’s title and unique URL. The cards also offered recipients a three-day trial membership to a Crunch gym.

"We told them to hit the streets and promote their videos...and at the same time they were our street team giving out guest passes," DeGuardi says.

Step #5. Select finalists, open voting

The team selected 30 finalist videos for public voting through September. To vote on a video, visitors had to provide the following information:
o Name
o Email
o City and state
o Phone number
o Opt-in for email offers

Voters who opted to receive emails were added to the team’s general marketing file. Contestants were not added to this file and only received contest-related updates.

"[Contestants] engaged with the brand on a higher level and we want to treat them that way," DeGuardi says.

Step #6. Host a premiere night

The team anticipated hosting an event to celebrate the contest, showcase the entries and announce the winner, but this was not established from the outset.

"This is something that kind of came to life as we were going," DeGuardi says.

They noticed that about half of the contestants lived in New York City, so they hosted the event in Manhattan. They used a converted Crunch gym to further reduce expenses.

- Promote event

The team needed to spread word of the event to avoid failure. They encouraged contestants to come and to bring friends. The team also acquired a sponsor, Roof Top Films, who promoted the event to their email list.

The contest engaged thousands of consumers with the Crunch brand, and created more than 200 videos the team could use for future promotions.

"I feel like we captured enough content for a full year of marketing campaigns," DeGuardi says.

Here are the results they saw:
o 622 video submission toolkit downloads
o 206 video submissions
o 30 finalists
o 1,079 comments on videos
o 43,340 votes
o 17,169 unique voters
o 243 Premier event RSVPs
o 12 memberships sold at the premier and from the microsite
o 60 Guest passes redeemed

Although the team tracked and recorded 12 memberships sold from the contest, they did not track any guest pass redeemers who became full members. But, like the content that can be re-used, opt-ins gathered through the voting contest provided a new pool of consumer leads the team can target through future marketing efforts.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Crunch Gym’s video contest

Sherpa Chart: Internet Video Gains Popularity with TV Viewers
Ideawork: Agency who helped the team’s creative and microsite strategy

Rooftop Films

Crunch Gym Shorts Microsite

Crunch LLC

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